Friday, 23 December 2016

Christmas Blogging Break and my Book of the Year - Owl Song at Dawn


Hello! Since I began blogging back in September 2016, I have reviewed 48 books, and I have loved every single one. I would like to take this opportunity to thank every single author and all of the publishers, who have kindly allowed me to read their wonderful books.

Unlike so many bloggers, I feel that I cannot do a '10 best books of the year' post, as I have only been blogging for a few months. However...one book in particular really spoke to me on a personal level. Therefore Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney is my Book of the Year.

Thank you to all the authors and fellow book bloggers who have supported my new blogging adventure. Have a wonderful Christmas. I'll be back on January 9th with an extract and giveaway for the fantastic The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.

Jo

Below, you can read my review of Owl Song at Dawn that I read back in September.

 


Maeve Maloney is a force to be reckoned with. Despite nearing eighty, she keeps Sea View Lodge just as her parents did during Morecambe's 1950s heyday. But now only her employees and regular guests recognise the tenderness and heartbreak hidden beneath her spikiness.

Until, that is, Vincent shows up. Vincent is the last person Maeve wants to see. He is the only man alive to have known her twin sister, Edie. The nightingale to Maeve's crow, the dawn to Maeve's dusk, Edie would have set her sights on the stage all things being equal. But, from birth, things never were.

If only Maeve could confront the secret past she shares with Vincent, she might finally see what it means to love and be loved a lesson that her exuberant yet inexplicable twin may have been trying to teach her all along.



My review of Owl Song At Dawn

*My Book of the Year...*



As I started to type this review, a huge lump formed in my throat as I thought about all of the emotions that this book conjured up within me. It moved me on so many levels. So I will try my best to explain what this book means to me, and why I feel that everyone should read it.

Owl Song At Dawn is set in Morecambe, which is only down the road from where I live. As a northern novel there are many iconic landmarks and references that I could easily associate with, such as The Midland Hotel where I only recently had afternoon tea, Brucciani's that do wonderful coffees and ice creams, the Eric Morecambe statue and Marine Promenade. All of these made me feel as if I were visiting an old friend. It welcomed me in from the very first page... and I was hooked. 

The book centres around the main character of Maeve, who is now nearly in her eighties. The story is from Maeve 's point of view and we are told a story from her past that encroaches on her life today. The present day story takes place in Sea View Lodge, which is where Maeve runs a guest house, mainly catering for individuals with a disability and their carers. Along the way we are introduced to many colourful characters, but my heart was very much drawn to Len, who is employed as a gardener and who just happens to have Down's syndrome. 

Maeve is a force to be reckoned with. Throughout the book we learn that she is a strong woman who is intelligent, witty, speaks her mind, but who ultimately is a caring and loving woman. I love her.

It is through Maeve's flashbacks of her time living at Sea View Lodge, as a child and then young woman, that we are told about her life with her twin sister, Edie, who has a learning disability, severe physical disability and autism. We read letters from medical professionals and beautiful lyrical poems that encompass the true essence of her sister. It is the medical reports and correspondence though that very much upset me. The language that was used in the 50's to describe a young child, and then young woman, with a disability are quite frankly disturbing, disrespectful and show that they had very little understanding of how such terminology affected both the individual and carer.

Words and phrases such as suffering, sub normal and burden are commonplace. These individuals were seen as being less, as being different. The author though completely redresses the balance, in her depiction of Edie, who is a bright, loving and happy individual. It makes you as a reader question your own happiness and what is truly important in life. Indeed, what does make us happy? 

The scenes where a young Maeve and Edie are together, are what really touched me. The strong bond clearly evident between them on the page. Maeve did not see all of her sister's so called imperfections, which is what the professionals and system focussed upon, but rather Maeve saw her perfect sister, who loved to laugh, dance, sing and had beautiful curly hair. 

This book touched me deeply. I have never read a book quite like it. I was initially drawn to it because of the subject matter. The author herself has a sister with cerebral palsy and autism, and used this as inspiration for the story and for the colourful and enigmatic character of Edie. I myself have a young autistic son, and worked for many years as a nurse, and I was curious to see how the author would portray disability through her writing, as so many get it wrong. But this book tackles the subject with the upmost respect, dignity, empathy and oodles of humour. In particular the issues surrounding individuals with a learning disability and sexuality, is poignantly told, again with openness and humour. This is something that is often brushed under the carpet, a taboo, we shouldn't talk about it, but this author does, and it is so very refreshing. 

What I feel readers will gain by reading this book is that every life matters. That to have a disability does  not make you less. That those who care for an individual with a disability do not see someone who is broken or needs fixing, they just see someone who they love. This book is a raw, funny and honest read.

Most importantly, I now feel less alone. 


About Emma Claire Sweeney (taken from Amazon)
 
 
Emma Claire Sweeney is a multi-award-winning author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, who currently teaches on City University’s Novel Studio and at New York University in London.

Emma was brought up in the North West of England, the elder sibling of twins, and OWL SONG AT DAWN is inspired by her autistic sister.

With her writer friend and colleague, Emily Midorikawa, she runs the website Something Rhymed, which shines a light on the forgotten friendships of the world’s most famous female authors.

Emma writes literary features, reviews, and pieces on disability for broadsheets and magazines.

Owl Song At Dawn was published by Legend Press on July 1st 2016. It is available to buy from Amazon here.

2 comments:

  1. Can't believe you've only been doing this since September, you've already got this down to a fine art. Have a great Christmas and look forward to catching up with you next year xx

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  2. Have a wonderful Christmas break. I look forward to more of your reviews in the new year.

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